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Yakupov Gets The Number He Always Wanted

July 3, 2014, 4:43 PM ET [1365 Comments]
Matt Henderson
Edmonton Oilers Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Nail Yakupov is getting a new start in his Hockey career, he’s changing his number.

Now that’s not exactly blockbuster news. He isn’t moving to a new team (sorry Maple Leafs, you cant have him for Reimer) and he isn’t leaving North America. He’s just changing his number from 64 to 10.

It’s no secret that Nail Yakupov ALWAYS wanted the number 10 but he was denied the number out of reverence for former Captain Shawn Horcoff. The Captain was still a part of the team when Yak arrived, but the two only shared the ice for 48 games. It was very respectful of Yakupov, who gets the “Brash” tag applied because of his on-ice exuberance all too often, to wait a year after Horc left the team to assume the vacant 10.

Choosing a number is a personal matter but some people get kind of Vanilla about it. For example, Nugent-Hopkins chose his birth-year for his number the year before. Well Yak shares that same year so 93 wasn’t going to work, plus cant there be some kind of thought put into this?

The fact is that Nail Yakupov’s favorite player was always Pavel Bure. I imagine for a lot of Russians his age Bure was at the apex of the hockey world. Who better to aspire to then one of the fastest, skilled goal-scorers the NHL had ever seen. He was rich, successful, an incredible player, and a proud countryman. It seems only natural that a player who was taken 1st Overall would want to follow in those footsteps or honor his inspiration by wearing Bure’s old number 10.

In many ways Taylor Hall had done the same thing with his number 4. He wears it in honor of his agent and mentor the great Bobby Orr. This wouldn’t have been an issue at all except the Oilers had unofficially retired the number that Kevin Lowe used to wear. Lowe who won 5 Cups with the Oilers and had been Captain of the team. Lowe who came back as a Coach then GM before becoming President of Hockey Ops and eventually Vice Chairman of the OEG. Lowe who has made being part of the Oilers’ organization his whole life had to give his blessing to an 18 year old kid before Hall got to wear the number 4.

At the time it was a wonderful symbol, a torch passing from one generation to the next. It was about not letting the past get in the way of progress and, hopefully, greatness.

Now foil that against the way Nail Yakupov, a fellow 1st Overall pick, was forced to tip toe around doing the exact same thing. The biggest difference this time being that Nail Yakupov was forced to capitulate out of worship to one of Edmonton’s most maligned Captains. Horcoff, who fans booed at home games, who lead the Oilers to 3 consecutive 1st Overall picks, who was paid like a star but never produced, has been wearing 10 in absentia since he left after the Lockout shortened year ended.

The red carpet that had been rolled out for Taylor Hall was noticeably absent from Yakupov’s welcome to the organization. Not only were there loud rumblings that the team didn’t even want to Draft the young Russian but now he couldn’t even wear the unretired, unused number he wanted to wear. It was understandable while Horcoff was still on the team, but the team didn’t go out of their way to make the young star feel welcome to wear it afterwards.

I’m glad he gets to wear 10 now. I hope, even if just a little, it makes him more comfortable. There was nothing wrong with the 64 he used to wear outside of it being an odd number. He could have easily made it his own and N64 is a great nickname for people my age who used the gaming console of the same name, but it isn’t what he wanted. He just finished a difficult year in which the team pushed him to play a style of game that didn’t come naturally to him and in which his scoring touch seemed to dry up. Now he wants to hit the reset button on a few things including the number on his back.

Nail Yakupov will be getting the new start he needs with the number he should have been given the minute it became available. Good for him, I hope the pride with which he wears it translates onto the ice the same way his love of the game has thus far into his career.

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